Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Submitted by Ukraine: Ukrainian Sheriffs
are Ukrainian border town sheriffs, sort of. Russia’s neo-Soviet annexation of
the Crimea temporarily put Stara Zburjivka on the Ukrainian border. Suddenly,
keeping the peace takes on vastly different meanings for the town’s two
appointed lawmen. They keep plugging away as they can, while the town wrestles
with the implications of grand geopolitical events beyond their control in
Roman Bondarchuk’s Ukrainian Sheriffs (trailer here), Ukraine’s
official foreign language Oscar submission, which screens next week at the
Ukrainian Institute of America.
they are not formal police officers, but the nearest sub-station is so
prohibitively far from Stara Zburjivka, the progressive town council chairman
(mayor equivalent), Orange Revolution veteran Viktor Marunyak recruited Victor
Grygorovych and his partner Volodya to act as referees. Generally speaking, the
townfolk usually make nice when they intercede. Grygorovych is the small wiry
one, but he is the one you really want to avoid antagonizing, rather than the
big but genial Volodya.
since Marunyak cut some featherbedding out of the town budget to pay their
salaries, they have maintained civic order with relatively little trouble or
ill feelings. However, a small but vocal faction is rising up to challenge Marunyak,
not so coincidentally timed around the same time as the Russian annexation and subsequent
invasion. Suddenly, the Sheriffs are serving not so far from a war zone.
Zburjivka offers a fascinating vantage point for viewing recent events in
Ukrainian history. However, viewers would get a fuller picture if Sheriffs were screened with the short
doc Bondarchuk and producer Dar’ya Averchenko previously made on Marunyak, who
was imprisoned on trumped up charges when he defied the attempted land grabs of
the Yanukovich kleptocracy. There is maybe a little too much quiet observation
in the feature follow-up, when they are so many true stories like Marunyak’s
that need to be told.
Regardless, the Sheriffs are indeed worthy
screen subjects, especially the flinty Grygorovych. During the third act, Bondarchuk
duly captures a whole lot of unfolding irony from their point-of-view. We also
get a vivid sense of how spirited (and in some cases, downright prickly) the
Stara Zburjivka townspeople truly are. Frankly, Putin should think twice before
trying to occupy the Sheriffs’ turf. Recommended as boots-on-the-ground,
up-close-and-personal report from Ukraine (a friendly democracy experiencing
predatory external pressure), Ukrainian
Sheriffs screens this Wednesday (12/7) in New York at the Ukrainian
Institute’s historic landmark building.
Labels: Documentary, Ukrainian Film